This school wants its students to question why so many words end in 'man.'

If the English language were a person, it would be this guy.

Photo by Jessica/Flickr.


A sweating, hulking lumberjack wielding an enormous saw, which is, stereotypically, the very essence of all that is manly.

Of course, women can be lumberjacks, too. But the English language — at least, the way it was taught to many of us — doesn't have room for that kind of nuance.

Don't believe me? Here's a picture of a couple of "policemen":

Photo by Jay Weenig/Flickr.

And here's one of a hardworking "fireman":

Photo by William Franklin/Flickr.

Matter of fact, what comes to mind when you think about a "freshman" in college? Or things that are "man-made?" What do you picture when you think about the history of "mankind"?

Starting to see a trend here?

For years, we've been taught that male-centric language is OK. The folks over at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill decided to teach their students differently.

Photo by William Yeung/Flickr.

I know for a fact that I'm guilty of this. Though I can't pinpoint exactly when, somewhere along the line I started assuming readers would know what I meant when I wrote "policeman." That they'd know I was referring to everyone on the planet when I said "mankind." That "Hey, guys!" was a perfectly acceptable substitute for "Hey, everyone!"

The truth is that defaulting to the male version of a word or phrase is lazy and uncool.

That's why UNC Chapel Hill is challenging its students to think more carefully about gender in their writing.

In a new addition to the school's writing guide, students can find guidelines that will help them "make decisions about using gendered language" in their writing.

According to the guide, "Most readers no longer understand the word 'man' to be synonymous with 'person,' so clear communication requires writers to be more precise."

It then goes on to give lots of helpful tips for students to use in their writing. They're not issuing mandates; they're providing guidelines.

For starters, there's a nifty chart that gives students gender-neutral alternatives to certain problematic words. "Mailman," for example, becomes "mail carrier." "Freshman" becomes "first-year student."

The guide also discusses topics like when and when not to invoke gender at all in academic writing and how to make sure the content of your writing is fair. (Referring to William Shakespeare as "Shakespeare," and Jane Austen as "Jane"? It happens, and it's pretty sexist.)

And, possibly, my personal favorite recommendation is the use of "they" as a singular pronoun, which is long, long overdue and, according to the guide, is a good alternative because "using 'she or he' or similar constructions can also inadvertently exclude people who do not refer to themselves using either pronoun." (Relax, grammar enthusiasts; the world isn't going to implode.)

Some are up in arms about these new guidelines, though, declaring them a "War on Words," and the work of "the P.C. Police."

Image from "Fox and Friends Weekend."

And this isn't the first time a campus initiative like this has gotten significant blowback.

Earlier this year, the University of Tennessee Knoxville had a post on its website encouraging students and teachers to ask each other which pronouns they preferred and to consider using gender-neutral pronouns like "ze" or "xe." After huge amounts of criticism, in which the policy was referred to as "liberal propaganda," the post came down a few weeks later.

UNC Chapel Hill already looks like it's headed for the same kind of opposition.

But really, when you boil it down, UNC isn't asking much. It's simply asking students to say what they mean and to stop assuming people like police officers and congressional representatives are men.

If you ask me, that's not propaganda, it's an important lesson for our next generation of leaders.

For many people, seeing any animal in captivity is a tragic sight. But when an animal cannot safely be released into the wild, a captive-but-comfortable space is the next best thing.

That's the situation for a dozen female pachyderms who have joined the Yulee refuge at the White Oak Conservation Center north of Jacksonville, Florida. The Asian elephants, who are endangered in the wild, are former circus animals that were retired from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 2016. The group includes two sets of full sisters and several half-sisters. Elephants tend to live together in multi-generational family groups led by a matriarch.

Philanthropists Mark and Kimbra Walter, who fund the refuge for rare species, say they are "thrilled to give these elephants a place to wander and explore."

"We are working to protect wild animals in their native habitats," the Walters said in a statement. "But for these elephants that can't be released, we are pleased to give them a place where they can live comfortably for the rest of their lives."

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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